Thursday, June 3, 2010

Healing Ink

A weeping willow tree, one flowery journal, two pens (in case one ran out of ink), and a box of Puffs tissues. Those items stayed close beside me. In my early confusion over the loss of my son, these objects never ignored my grief or told me to “get over it”.

When it grew too dark to see underneath the stringy weeping willow, I carried my pen and journal inside a house that seemed too empty, and wrote some more. At night, I woke to grapple with turmoil, with the noises in my head, the flashbacks of the cancer ward, the cries of my son. I wrote the ugly words—“why?” and “how come?” before I could sleep again.

I scribbled through myths and clich├ęs. I unleashed resentment and longing. I addressed prayers to God.

And, surprisingly, I discovered. Some of the confusion slid away, some of the guilt abandoned me. There was nothing I could have done to spare my four-year-old’s life. Even my love had not been strong enough to destroy that infection that flared inside his tiny body. I was human and really not as in control as I wanted to believe. I would have to live with that.

I began to understand the new me. She was a tower of strength and compassion; she was tender and vulnerable, realistic, with just the right touch of cynicism. She needed protection from too many plastic smiles; she could not go long without a hug or sharing a story about a blue-eyed boy with an infectious laugh.

My written words healed me. And I jumped at the opportunity to tell others. I’d found comfort and clarity. I smiled at my husband and three young children, and at last, I didn’t want to run my van over the cliff; I wanted to smell the peonies and taste the salt from the ocean on my skin.

The beauty about grief-writing is that no one has to read it. You don’t have to worry about a teacher correcting your spelling or grammar. There’s no grade, no pass or fail. No one cares if your letters are sloppy. It’s written by you and for you. And, yes, it works.

• Find a secluded place to write where you can think clearly without distraction.
• Write, at first, for your eyes only. It doesn't have to be shared with anyone.
• Write to chart progress for you to read years down the road.
• Write with the feeling "I will survive this."
• Write to identify your emotions and feelings.
• Write to help solve some of the new situations you must now face.
• Think of your journal as a friend who never judges and who can never hurt you.
• Write your spiritual struggles.
• Write to rebuild your self-esteem and your self-confidence.
(From Down the Cereal Aisle: a basket of recipes and remembrances by Alice J. Wisler)


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Alice. I was thinking I should have joined your grief writing class, but was away in FL for the first week. Maybe I'll join next time. Saturday is the 3-month anniversary of my best friend's death and I'm feeling almost sadder now than I was then. It seems like each day that goes by, I just miss her more and wish I could call her and hear her voice. I need to be writing.

  2. Heidi, I hate that you have lost your best friend. I hope you will join the next online writing class on July 12th.

    ~ Alice